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Construction Employment Declines in 164 out of 337 Metro Areas Between May 2011 & 2012, Congress Continues to Debate Highway Bill

Construction employment declined in 164 out of 337 metropolitan areas between May 2011 and May 2012, increased in 126 and stayed stagnant in 47, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said that construction employment suffers even as Congress continues to debate the possible replacement for a highway and transit bill that expired over three years ago, and other infrastructure and economic measures languish.

“The number of metro areas losing construction jobs continues to increase compared to earlier this year,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Considering the ongoing cuts to public construction budgets, there just isn’t enough construction activity in many areas to sustain the same employment levels as last year.”

The largest job losses were in Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. (-7,100 jobs, -14 percent); followed by Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Ill. (-6,900 jobs, -6 percent); New York City (-5,100 jobs, -5 percent); St. Louis, Mo. (-4,900 jobs, -8 percent) and Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y. (-4,700 jobs, -8 percent). Anchorage, Alaska (-28 percent, -2,700 jobs) lost the highest percentage. Other areas experiencing large percentage declines in construction employment included Monroe, Mich. (-24 percent, -500 jobs), Springfield, Mass.-Conn. (-19 percent, -1,800 jobs) and Montgomery, Ala. (-18 percent, -1,200 jobs).

Bakersfield-Delano, Calif. added the highest percentage of new construction jobs (22 percent, 3,000 jobs) followed by Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind. (20 percent, 8,000 jobs) and Knoxville, Tenn. (19 percent, 3,100 jobs). Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind. also added the most jobs. Other areas adding a large number of jobs included Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, Ariz. (7,400 jobs, 9 percent); San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. (4,900 jobs, 16 percent); Baton Rouge, La. (4,900 jobs, 13 percent) and Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. (4,300 jobs, 7 percent).

Association officials urged members of a congressional conference committee working on a new federal highway and transit bill to complete negotiations before current funding expires on June 30. They noted that many vital transportation improvement projects will likely remain on hold until a longer term measure is passed that allows state officials to plan for and finance complex projects.

“While there are many factors contributing to the ongoing construction employment losses, the lack of a highway and transit bill is certainly not helping,” said the association’s chief executive officer, Stephen E. Sandherr. “Passing a bill soon will save a lot of construction jobs and help the industry hang on until private sector demand heats up and state and local budgets get stronger.”

View construction employment figures by state and rank.

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